Creativity was put to the test as Ana and Gina planned their summer wedding in Escondido, California, and the result was more than either of them could have imagined.

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Ana and Gina tied the knot in a rustic ceremony at Hidden Valley Retreat and Spa in Escondido Calif., approximately 450 miles south from their home in Oakland. Searching online, they stumbled across the natural estate and immediately knew that it was the place they would exchange vows. “We called them immediately, long after business hours had ended, and booked it sight unseen,” explains Ana of their serendipitous choice. “We made a trip the following month and loved the energy, style and gorgeous setting of Hidden Valley.”

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Planning over long distance was a familiar setting for Ana and Gina, whose love grew over nightly marathon Google Video Chat sessions (“Interrupted frequently by Ana’s old overheating laptop!” adds Gina) thanks to the couple’s cross-country relationship. Eventually, they loaded all of Ana’s prized possessions into her tiny 1993 Mazda MX-3 and set out on a wild adventure from Ana’s home in Philadelphia to Gina’s in Oakland, Calif., where they settled into blissful domestic bliss.

A planning process consisting of four road trips to San Diego and meticulously coordinating with the staff and their event planner, Elisa Suter, resulted in a day that was beyond their dreams by bringing their DIY vision to life. “It was absolutely exhausting but turned out gorgeously, certainly an event worthy of our love and relationship,” says Gina.

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Because it was a destination wedding, the lovebirds strived to make it feel like a vacation for their 60 guests. “We planned an entire weekend, with many guests arriving on Friday. We had a rehearsal dinner followed by karaoke on Friday, a pool party brunch on Saturday before the ceremony, and a brunch on Sunday. Everyone, including us, came from far away, so we wanted to spend lots of time together,” says Gina. They also provided each of their guests with welcome bags for the weekend wedding, which included necessities such as soap and toothbrushes, as well as bonus items such as the couple’s favorite pita chips and hummus, hand sanitizers, sunscreen and a BPA-free RED water bottle inscribed with “Ana & Gina 7-14-12.”

They were inspired by the enchanting natural setting of Hidden Valley’s grounds, and created a country rustic theme bursting with vibrant colors. “We still wanted it to be fancy and special,” adds Gina. The ceremony site was festively embellished with paper lanterns and oversized tissue paper flowers, as guests sat in a semi-circle, creating an intimate atmosphere as the couple exchanged vows.

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Resting on the each ceremony seat, guests were welcomed with parasols and fans thoughtfully placed by the bride and bridegroom to help battle the midday sun. The bride wore an intricately beaded white halter gown with red flats during the ceremony. For the reception, she switched into a flirty one-shouldered dress and gold shoes ideal for dancing. Gina donned a light gray Perry Ellis suit paired with a white dress shirt from Banana Republic and red tie, and finished with striking brown shoes from Aldo.

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The wedding party was made up of both men and women, and featured two adorable children who walked down the aisle carrying signs made by Gina’s uncle that read “Here Comes” and “The Bride.” “With a little coaxing from their mom and some friendly members of the wedding party, the two eventually made it all the way down the aisle without any disasters,” says Ana.

Rather than having an officiant, Ana and Gina opted to have their entire wedding party marry them by taking various roles in the ceremony. Their ceremony script was a hybrid of various traditions that spoke to the couple. “In addition to our vows, exchanging of rings, and a number of readings about marriage and love, we signed a marriage contract that one of Ana’s bridesmaids based from the Muslim tradition,” says Gina. “We also had a few minutes for people gathered at the ceremony to share wishes and blessings for us.”

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“We were elated, exhausted, and so, so touched at how present and engaged everyone was during the ceremony. We were worried it would seem too long, or that people would be miserable in the heat, but everyone was wonderful. We felt honored and exhilarated by all of the love,” says Ana. The crafty duo transformed a vintage clothing rack into a seated card display using only colorful crepe paper and creativity.

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Jewel-toned crystal illuminated on neutral tablecloths, sprinkled with crochet flowers and centerpieces inspired by Ana’s love for the sunny disposition of sunflowers (and for Gina), the drama of deep purple dahlias and the passion shared by the new couple, with wildflowers mixed in for a natural edge. Bulb lights were draped amongst vibrant paper lanterns adding sparkle to the room as the sun dipped below the horizon.

Guests were served a medley of Mexican favorites, including fish tacos, grilled chicken, pickled vegetables, beans, rice and guacamole. “One of the biggest hits was the horchata, which was gone in about thirty minutes!” exclaims Ana.

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Their miniature wedding cake was carrot-flavored and covered in frothy white buttercream icing with script heart details. The cake topper was a nod to Ana’s hometown accented with a LOVE statue, and highlighted with two lovebirds.

For the dessert table, they converted a wooden armoire from the venue and turned it into a whimsical display featuring homemade bunting, crocheted flowers and photographs of the happy couple. Mini cupcakes in delicious flavors that matched their Mexican-themed meal, including churro, margarita and Mayan chocolate, were sprinkled amongst mason jars filled with wildflowers and vibrant paper flowers and lanterns.

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Their first dance as a married pair was to Jason Mraz’s hit I Won’t Give Up, selected after seeing it performed on Ellen a few months prior. “We both teared up when we first heard it, and we still do to this day,” says Ana. After the sweet song ended, a second dance for the two began, featuring barely choreographed hilarity to I Feel So Close by Calvin Harris. “We had everyone join us on the dance floor for that number after we exhausted our three moves,” she laughs. DJ Carmin Wong, a lesbian disc jockey from Los Angeles, whom the couple sought after reading interviews with her in the queer press, kept guests on their feet throughout the night. “She has awesome style and was really fun to work with.”

Ana’s engagement ring is a diamond solitaire round cut with a tapered thin white gold band, while Gina’s engagement ring features a thicker band, also white gold, with a bezel set garnet stone that Ana received from Gina’s mother—it was part of a charm bracelet that belonged to Gina’s maternal grandmother. Their white gold wedding bands are each inscribed with a sentimental, personality-driven saying and their wedding date. Ana’s ring reads “Seat’s taken,” which is what Gina would say whenever she suspected another flirting with her beloved, while Gina’s reads “Soy tuya para siempre,” which means, “I’m yours forever.”


Photography: Kaysha Weiner
Venue: Hidden Valley Retreat and Spa
Event Planner: Elisa Suter
Cake: San Diego Desserts (cake); Calculated Whisk (cupcakes)
Music: The Ocdamia Strings; DJ Carmin Wong
Attire: Perry Ellis; Banana Republic; Aldo
Hair/Makeup: Charlyn Sanchez